The Shutdown Crisis

What started as a campaign promise has now grown into an urgent government conflict with American federal employees held as hostages. America has faced and overcome historic crisis ranging from the US steel conflict of 1952 and the postal strike of 1970 to the more recent 9/11. The sitting presidents during these events certainly had significant cause to declare a national emergency. Our current president is considering declaring an emergency to physically secure our southern border but is ignoring the actual crisis amongst federal employees working without pay and resorting to seek help from food banks to feed their families. What will it take for our government to realize the shutdown is the national emergency? A declaration of a national emergency over a mythical migrant invasion would not only be wrong but a costly mistake at the expense of federal workers. American presidents have declared national emergencies not for the best interests of Americans but in political efforts to acquire power beyond the legislative boundaries of checks and balances. If a national emergency is declared to build the wall, we as Americans still have the power to protest this so-called border crisis.

National Emergency versus a State of Emergency

A state of emergency involves an event necessitating action from both the state government and its citizens, as such in the wake of Hurricane Florence and other natural disasters that required residents to evacuate the area and state government agencies to temporarily suspend operations in order to prepare for relief efforts. Additional actions usually include supplemental funding for emergency shelters and rebuilding efforts. In contrast to natural disasters, the national emergency perceived by the President involving the caravans of immigrants as an imminent threat to our borders is not an event that requires a response of readiness or security management at the levels used at the state level of government. If border states have not declared a crisis while addressing immigrants entering their states, the President’s inference of border security at a heightened level of risk is nothing more than speculation on his part.

The National Emergency Act

The National Emergency Act was enacted by the 94th Congress for the purpose of providing extraordinary executive powers of authority to protect US citizens and property from an unforeseen event necessitating an immediate response and bypass appropriate congressional protocols of voting on funding appropriations. The components of a national emergency are the conditions of being sudden, unknown, or a threat to life and well-being beyond reasonable limits. The purported masses of immigrants overwhelming border entry points ongoing speculation of the President and does not fit into the category of an unforeseen event but as an alternative move to circumvent Congressional rulings against funding the wall. This scenario is nearly identical to the tactic of Harry Truman’s attempt to take over the steel mills in order to manufacture munitions during the Korean War, which was interpreted as overstepping boundaries regarding managing private property instead of helping to prevent a strike by the workers. Any threats to life and well-being are endured by the immigrants crossing the southern American border by precarious methods, not American citizens.

Denial of Emergency Powers

Just because a president has the right to declare an emergency and proceeds to do so does not mean that everyone will agree with the President’s decision. Boundaries defining the scope of power during an emergency still exist and can be enforced by the Supreme Court if necessary. One example of a former president accused of abusing national emergency powers during times of crisis and uncertainty is Roosevelt who ordered to establish the Japanese Internment Camps. Another example is Harry Truman who attempted to seize control of the steel mills. These actions were not responses to events that were threats to national security, but attempts to step around congressional protocols and provisions of the National Emergency Act. Although Congress could not stop the emergency declarations, they, along with the Supreme Court, were able to rule against Truman’s authority and return control of the mills back to the owners.

Shutdown Standoff

While the government shutdown stalemate continues on Capitol Hill, a potential national crisis is brewing. TSA employees working without pay are demonstrating how essential a fully functioning government is to all Americans through a proverbial pandemic of the blue flu; calling in sick. Some air traffic controllers are going even further by quitting their jobs altogether. The show of solidarity amongst federal workers seems to be the only recourse available to call attention to the plight federal employees face unwillingly. The tactics of calling in sick, going on strikes, or quitting the job altogether do not pay mortgages, school tuition, medical bills or put food on the table. Those are tasks that food banks, homeless shelters, and other charity groups are helping federal workers sort through until the government doors reopen. The effects of the longest shutdown are steadily becoming a unique national emergency in and of itself. This emergency can be avoided by not abusing the National Emergency Act for the purpose of advancing an unimportant political agenda.

Standing Together

What our government appears to have momentarily forgotten is what Americans do in times of need and uncertainty: unite and help each other. In response to the economic concerns of furloughed workers, GoFundMe has started a direct relief fund to help furloughed employees struggling to make ends meet. The fund also provides a secure way for individuals to help our grounded fellow Americans suffering at the hands of a power-hungry leader who has backed himself into a corner. The issue now is not a physical land barrier, but empty stomachs and past due bills. This much-needed example of putting the needs of others ahead of our own is what’s making America great again.3

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